Tag Archives: Sandhill Crane

It’s still that time of year!

And now it’s official – the vernal equinox was last Monday.  Kevin M., Tom M. and I headed for Viera Wetlands early on Friday morning to see how spring is going there.

I wrote about the bird nesting at Gatorland a couple of weeks ago (http://edrosack.com/2017/03/12/its-that-time-of-year-again/).  It turns out that there’s a lot of activity at Viera too.

We saw Sand Hill Crane families:

What's Momma doing?What’s Momma doing? Sand Hill Crane and chick foraging at Viera Wetlands.  The chick’s concentration is fascinating.

And Great Blew Heron families (Pun intended – Windy day?  Blew?  Blue? ):

Breezy Blue and babyBreezy Blue and baby – Mom guards the nest and chicks

And caught a brief glimpse of a family of River Otters before they disappeared into the reeds:

A family of River OttersRiver Otter family – 3 or 4 of them ran across the road and into the water

I have one more photo to show you.  Since I started using the Olympus E-M1 II camera, I’ve been on a quest to apply its ‘pro-capture’ mode to photograph a Red-winged Blackbird in flight.  Their shoulders are pretty and you can’t see them very well when they’re perched. This is my best attempt so far. I like it, but I’m going to keep trying.  I’d like to catch one in a little better light and it’d be nice to have the bird facing more toward the camera.  While we’re wishing, a catch light in the eyes would be wonderful too!

Red-winged Blackbird in flightRed-winged Blackbird in flight – 

We also looked for a different sunrise spot and stopped by a pasture on the way to Viera.  Unfortunately, nature didn’t cooperate – I ended with a few uninspiring photos.  You can look at one (if you must) on Flickr at this link.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some spring time photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

July’s for the birds…

Kevin M. and I knowingly and by chance violated many photography thumb rules yesterday morning.  My first example:

Sunrise over the pastureSunrise over the pasture

As landscape photos go, it breaks rules:   It’s not all in focus;  I didn’t use a low ISO to minimize noise;  I used a long lens (so I could keep power lines out of the frame), not a wide-angle ; And I didn’t use a tripod.  But I like how it turned out.  I’m pleased by the composition and colors.  It also has a bit of mystery with the fog, and the cows that are a bit hidden.  Florida does look like this.

Next up are some bird photos.  In Florida, July is one of the hottest months.  Most photographers know this and many choose to stay inside – because the birds know this too and many of them also seem to disappear when it’s this hot.  So what did we do?  We went  out looking for birds.

When we were photographing sunrise, we heard Bobwhites calling and spotted this one on the fence by the pasture.  It was very patient and waited with us for better light.  But I still had to violate one of my thumb rules and shoot at ISO 3200 to get a decent photo.  By the way, let me just say again that technology today is wonderful.  This image was at a focal length of 600mm, with a shutter speed of 1/50 second, hand-held!

Northern BobwhiteNorthern Bobwhite

The Burrowing Owl was a little way down on the same fence line.  By this time the light was somewhat better and I could shoot at ISO 1600 and 1/100 sec.  Still pretty impressive stabilization and sensor performance.

Burrowing OwlBurrowing Owl

Those three photos were at our first stop!  Kevin wanted to show me some  Red-cockaded Woodpeckers he’d spotted at the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area.  I’ve been there before looking for them and this time we think we heard some, but didn’t manage to see or photograph any.

We did spot some other not so common birds including Brown-headed Nuthatches, Common Ground Doves, and Eastern Meadowlarks.

On the way back, we went by a farm where one of Florida’s Whooping Cranes hangs out.  I’ve been there several times looking for it without success.  Until this time:

Whooping Crane and two Sandhill CranesWhooping Crane and two Sandhill Cranes

This is more of a record shot than a great photo.   The light is harsh and the birds are beyond the range limit for this lens so it’s cropped in.  And the July heat was making waves too, harming the image quality.   But I still like it.  Thumb rules?  Who needs stinking’ thumb rules!

Until the 1930s, Whooping Cranes occurred naturally in Florida (see this article on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation site).  There have been efforts to re-introduce them by leading them with ultra-light planes on migration routes  (see this site).  In January 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced they’d “stop supporting the use of ultralight aircraft to help young whooping cranes migrate from Wisconsin to Florida each fall“.  Studies show that interacting with humans has a negative effect on the birds.  I’m pretty sure this particular Whooping Crane is a survivor of the program.  It’s banded yellow over green on its left leg, but a short google search didn’t turn up any info.

So rules of thumb are good – especially if you understand them and know when to break them.  Breaking the rules led me to a sunrise photo I like and four life-birds yesterday (thanks Kevin!).  By the way, you can click on any of these for larger versions on Flickr.

And thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

P.S.  Stay tuned for some photo stories from Utah.  MK and I had an epic weekend out there and I’ll share it when I finish processing the images.

Walking ’round the Wetlands, 5-17-2014

Kevin K., Kevin M, and I went to Viera Wetlands last weekend.  We’d had heavy rain the week before and the roads were closed to cars, so we walked.

Handsome Blue
Handsome Blue – Little Blue Heron

You’ll see different things walking versus driving.  When you drive, you can cover a larger area and maybe see many more things.  But sometimes the faster pace and the isolation inside the vehicle will make you miss something that you might see if you walk.  And when you walk, it’s easier to stop and really look at something.  Or stop and wait for something to happen.  When we first saw the Little Blue Heron, it was in the shade.  But we stayed for a few moments and the sun rose enough to put it into some better light.  Worth waiting for, and we probably wouldn’t have if we were driving.

We started too late for a sunrise photo, but I did manage to make this infrared image of the moon setting into the marsh.

Marsh Moon
Marsh Moon – The moon sinks into the clouds over Viera Wetlands. IR, B&W, 3 frame Vertical Panorama

We also stopped for a bit to watch a family of Sandhill Cranes.  With all the birders that frequent Viera Wetlands, they’re very used to people and you can get pretty close without disturbing them.  They’re interesting birds.  Whenever I see two adults foraging, they seem to take turns keeping an eye on things.  One will be head down, while the other is up and looking around.  When there’s a young one with its parent, it always seems to mimic what the parent is doing.

This one! This one is a good bug to eat!
This one! This one is a good bug to eat! – Sandhill Crane and Colt at Viera Wetlands

Even though the birding action in our area might be slowing down as summer approaches, we still enjoyed ourselves.  We spent some quality time out in nature, and made a few photos we like.  Another good day for a photo-op in Central Florida.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Sandhill Cranes at the airport

The Orlando Airport has a very convenient cell phone lot where you can wait for arriving flights. We often see a family of Sandhill Cranes hanging out there.  Another reason to always have your camera with you!

Sandhill Crane Portrait
Sandhill Crane profile

Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

The birds are obviously used to having people around them.  But if you’re photographing them (or  other birds or animals) – please be respectful and don’t harass or stress them.

By the way, I’ve finished a first pass through the Blog Categories and Tags.  I think they’re better organized now.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

It takes teamwork – Florida Sandhill Crane nest

We’re very fortunate to have Sandhill Cranes in Central Florida.  You can see these large wading birds all around the area and you often see them in groups of two to four.  Usually the group is a family with two larger birds (the parents) and one or two smaller juveniles.

For a few weeks last year, I regularly saw one family on my way home from work – they were often in a field next to the entrance ramp where I get on the toll road .  It was interesting to watch the young bird grow and eventually leave the parents.  I’ve also seen them in parking lots and even crossing major roads (on foot!).

According to Wikipedia, The Florida Sandhill Crane subspecies is estimated to have some 5,000 individuals remaining and is protected in our state.  Sad fact:  Sandhill Cranes are hunted in several western states and Canada.  Fun fact:  Ten million year old fossils of the Sandhill crane have been found which makes it the oldest known bird species still surviving.

Sandhill Cranes on nest

Sandhill Cranes and nest – Nikon D90, ISO 200, f/8, 1/640 sec, Sigma 150-500mm @ 500mm, 60 meters distance

I didn’t realize that Sandhill Cranes nest on the ground.  I saw a nest for the first time yesterday at Vierra Wetlands and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  How has this species survived for ten million years using this strategy?  Can you imagine how difficult it is to protect a nest from all the predators in the middle of a marsh?  I saw large alligators not far from this nest and I’m certain that there are raccoons, snakes and other things that would love to eat eggs or small birds close by.


Alligator on bank at Vierra Wetlands Nikon D90, ISO 200, f/8, 1/640 sec, Sigma 150-500mm @ 500mm

iBird says that both parents incubate the eggs during the day, but only the female does so at night.  It doesn’t say what the male bird does at night, but it must have to help defend the female.  I can only conclude that these birds are very fierce defenders.  Alligators and other predatory animals must learn to leave them alone – after all,  modern alligators have been around for about six to 12 million years!

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.